Monday, March 30, 2009

CALLING ALL DOUCHEBAGS: Rich? Selfish? Feel like you own the beach? Good. We need your help.

I like the word ‘douchebag.’ In a world where ‘bad’ can mean good, ‘sick’ describes the most powerful and popular, and ‘cool’ and ‘hot’ are virtually interchangeable, ‘douchebag’ is unabashedly clear in its purpose. Perhaps more than any other insult. After all, terms like ‘dick’ and ‘asshole’ often apply to people who command a high level of respect — think Vice President Cheney and your average vice-principal. Or just a close friend with a mischievous personality. But a ‘douchebag’ has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. There is no silent “kind-of-a” strapped to the front. A douchebag is a douchebag is a douchebag.

So, I need to apologize to all the oceanfront homeowners out there who I may have undeservedly called ‘douchebag’ at one point or another. For, though all of these folks may be ‘rich bastards’ — another term I throw around rather freely — they are not all ‘douchebags.’

Need proof? Check out this sign from a house near me:

The owners live right on the beach. They could have put barbwire and pitch forks and Punji sticks all around their perimeter and it would be perfectly legal. But they didn’t. Instead, they continually offer up their own private driveway for a quick surf-check or drop off point to let random folks enjoy a public natural resource. All summer long, people pull up, hop around the side and dump all the umbrellas and beach chairs — a pair of ‘cornhole’ boxes plus a Confederate flag raft or two — then drive off and park about a half-mile away. Everybody’s happy. (Except maybe dad who has to hump his fat ass from the parking lot in 90-degree weather.)

I wish I could say this was the rule, but it’s the exception. This house is surrounded by little gaps in the beach fence with signs that say ‘Private’ and ‘Property Of … ‘, hell-bent on making sure nobody uses their precious dirtpath -- even for the 30 seconds. Besides the innate selfishness of the message, the approach really adds to the atmosphere. Nothing quite so relaxing as looking back from the shoreline and seeing “KEEP OUT!” and “NO TRESPASSING” written in angry, neon pink lettering. These are also the most ironic signs, since — were you to blindly follow the instructions from the ocean side — you’d be trapped on the beach forever. Over time, the sand would fill with all those pesky, unfortunate souls who love the sea but are unable to afford an uninsurable, million-dollar piece of ocean front . (I assume they would call us ‘poor bastards’.)

Now, these sign-posters are by every measure, ‘douchebags.’ Were they to put the same energy into facilitating some form of balanced access, the world would be a better place. But since that’s not the case, we need to appeal to their ‘inner douchebag’ and use their evil powers for good. And the fight against offshore oil is the perfect opportunity; in fact, I’d argue we could ask for no stronger allies. First, they obviously feel very protective of the shoreline. Second, they really love money, and nothing kills real estate values like disrupting a view — say with a bunch of oil rigs. Third, they’re most likely to be quite cozy with the douchebags — aka politicians and lobbyists — who are trying to make this happen.

If we’re to defeat this enemy, we must convert these former foes to our cause. Start by not calling them ‘douchebags’ anymore. (At least not to their faces.) Then join the local country club. Play some golf. Wear an ascot. Maybe make a racial slur. Then, once you’ve blended in, say something like, “We’re so fortunate to be able to call the beach our home. Too bad all those ‘poor bastards’ feel the need to wallow around in our front yards, coating their fat, white (thank, God) bodies with drug-store ‘Baby Magic.’ Laughing and playing with those foul, barefoot urchins they call ‘children’. Hopefully, we can get a bunch of oil rigs put up quickly. The first good oil spill oughta scare them off for good. If not, we can simply light them on fire. ”

And if the thought of their front yard caked in petroleum or a bunch of blazing tourists screaming up and down the beach doesn’t make them hyperventilate over the prospect of plunging real estate values, just take ‘em surfing. Perhaps then they may see the ocean as something more than a financial opportunity. Maybe they’ll even decide it’s a resource worthy of both sharing and protecting. And when that happens, you can officially stop calling them ‘douchebags’ for real.

Of course, most of us aren’t rich douchebags, so we must team up to show our financial might. If you haven’t taken the Surf-First survey do it now!

Monday, March 23, 2009

APRIL FOOL’S MONTH: Be an idiot; drill offshore

Listen up, fool! You got an extra 24 hours to act like a dumbass this year. That’s right, instead of just April 1, you’ve you can be stupid a whole second day, depending on where you live. All you have to do is miss one of the four public comment dates over the proposal to open the US coast to offshore oil exploration: April 6 for the East Coast (Atlantic City, NJ); April 8 for the Gulf, (New Orleans, LA); April 14 in Anchorage Alaska; and April 16 for the West Coast (San Francisco, CA). And while April 1 may be the reigning holiday for ridiculous behavior and hoaxes perpetuated at other peoples’ expense, the addition of such a giant, greasy topic — and giving entire coastal regions just one day and a single location to sound off — makes for a month-long Fool-a-Palooza so big, one ship ain’t enough to hold ‘em all. This one requires a flotilla of fools.

1. SHIP OF FOOLS #1. The SS Drill Baby Drill. This one holds all the people who still buy the propaganda that expanding domestic production makes sense because somehow it will lower gas prices, make us more energy independent and show all those Muslim extremist A-ray-abs we mean business . Well, first of all, we could never meet our own domestic needs by increasing production; second, even if we put more fuel in the market, the big 10 producers will just refine less to keep the price up. (Which they’re already doing since we decreased our demand; that’s why gas is above $2 again.) And even if we could pump huge amounts, these companies would still just ship as much domestic oil as possible to another country willing to pay more (like we export 1.8 million gallon a day right now). So don’t think because we find it here it stays here. Oh yeah: and that TV ad by the Petroleum lobby saying 2/3 of America’s energy comes from North America? No shit: it’s called Canada and Mexico, neither of which is a US state. Nor are they part of the Middle East. Fool.

2. SHIP OF FOOLS NUMBER 2. Call this one, the S.S Show Me the Money!. With state budgets already upside down thanks to lower tax revenues and increased unemployment, the captain’s log includes a lot of politicians who already get a good bit of green from Big Oil and see the US economy’s current Titanic impression as a prime opportunity to earn their money. Well, let’s look at how much money states earn off those offshore leases. Start with the Gulf: in 2005, the Offshore Continental Shelf produced $5.7 billion in revenue. Of that, the largest producer, Louisiana, got to keep $40 million. Less than one percent. (But they keep 100% of the associated problems.) Now, lets look at how much revenue a clean beach generates. Dare County, NC alone makes $500 million every single year off tourism and fishing -- more than 10 times the amount of lease fees – that’s just one county. That’s not including income from residents who love to live there or businesses, or just real estate taxes. These are revenue streams that will shrink drastically if the beaches start losing quality. (Just ask Galveston.) And they’ll dry up completely the second a oil spill happens. And putting a bunch of rigs in the middle of hurricane alley guarantees it will happen one day. So, not only will you lose the tourist income, add the cost of cleanup. (The Valdez accident cost 2.5 billion – and that doesn’t include lost revenues to businesses or how many residents went bankrupt waiting 20 years for Exxon to battle paying the settlement damages.) So, basically, the financial wizards who see offshore drilling as safe and easy income are the same fools who thought housing prices and stock markets only go up. And look where that got us. (Oh yeah: stop saying there was no oil spilled during Katrina. In May 2006, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued a report stating that as a result of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the number of pipelines damaged was 457, and the number of offshore platforms destroyed was 113, with a total of 146 oil spills recorded . . .[for] a total volume of 17,652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons. The “major spill” in Australia this month was closer to 50,000 gallons.)

3. SHIP OF FOOLS NUMBER 3: The S.S. Let Someone Else Deal With It. This is for all the folks who realize offshore oil is terrible idea, a bad gamble financially, ecologically and ethically, but are still too lazy to do anything about it except slap a “no oil” sticker on the hookah and fill out half an online petition between hits of renewable green energy. These may be the biggest fools of all. They’re like folks who decided to wait a few more months to sell their crazily overpriced house. Who heard Bernie Madoff was a scam artist but still sent him checks. Of anyone, this is the user group with an ability to prevent the American people from being fleeced ahead of time – but can’t get off their asses to do it, even at this critical juncture where we need every healthy economic engine we got.

SO STOP PLAYING THE FOOL. If you’re a pro surfer, an industry rep, a shopowner -- or just a person working in a humble beach town -- this is your million man march. Take a day off to fill a crowded hall and show lawmakers firsthand that the coastal communities aren’t going foot the bill and assume all the risk so our planet's most profitable companies can make another few billion dollars. Because, if they get their way, we’re the pitiful fools who’ll be stuck with all the problems, hanging off our necks like a giant gold albatross. Black gold.

You can find out more on the issue at There’s another rant here. And stay tuned for ways to maximize our output beginning April 6 in AC.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Two things happened last week of some import to surfers. First, an oil barge in Australia hit by cyclone-inspired rough seas spilled thousands of gallons of oil, forcing authorities to declare "a disaster zone along 37 miles (60 kilometers) of some of Australia's most popular beaches in Queensland." Second, on Friday -- the 13th no less -- the temporary closures kicked in along Cape Hatteras National Seashore, barring both ORVs and pedestrians to huge hunks of pristine coastline. (click here to see just how huge.)

These incidents happened a half-world apart, but they remain surprisingly linked. Why? Because right now the US Petroleum industry is engaged in a full court press to open America's shores to offshore drilling. Already ridiculously well-funded and relentless, the current budget crisis crippling most coastal states makes the idea of oil revenue (however paltry compared to the billions in tourism) sound like good economic policy for politicians already getting big money from big oil. Because the frontlines of this fight may come down to North Carolina and Virginia -- where hurricanes (what Aussies call cyclones) -- routinely swoop past, making rigs and ships a much scarier idea. And where this beach closure issue - sparked and strengthened by a lawsuit started by Audobon and Defenders of Wildlife -- has turned 'environmentalists' into the official enemy of coastal residents, making it all the harder to enlist support from the fishermen and pro-access activists who feel their rights were taken away by green devils.

Check the link of how huge the closures are; read the interview with Trip Forman below about the science behind the closures, then let Audubon and Defenders know they can still find a compromise that will salvage a working relationship with the angry masses and maybe turn them toward a much larger environmental threat that has the ability to ruin habitats for all coastal species.

Then send an email to with your name and address supporting surfers access rights at Cape Hatteras moving forward.

Finally, if you haven't already, take the Surf-First survey so when your break's under attack, there's some good surfing stats to defend it. And if you think your break is safe, you're wrong. From Florida to Maine the powers that be want to keep you off the beach.

And why not? The fewer people who enjoy the beach, the easier it is to drill, baby, drill.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I already did a little e-high five last week when the news broke Surfrider and friends beating Palm Beach in court, but thought I better update a little further since this landmark battle will actually become case law, meaning it will help in future fights down the road. What might be the bigger record on this one, however, is longest time elapsed without any surf media coverage. When I slammed out this quick Q and A with plaintiff Terry Gibson on Friday, I thought for sure I was already scooped. But here we are, another two days down the road, and still not a lick of recognition anywhere. Let this be a lesson to everyone on how much support and effort can you expect from your surfing brothers and sisters when it comes to protecting your homebreak. (Zero.) It's up to you. Start here.

Friday, March 6, 2009


A funny thought hit me as I reflected on one of the comments I got at the Cape Hatteras ORV public comment period last week. As I stepped down, a guy said: "You can't be a surfer, you didn't say 'dude' once." Anyone who knows me knows that's a bullshit lie; I call everyone 'dude.' (My wife, my mom, my's a terrible habit.) But it goes to show the effect image has on these fights. All the more reason we need to prove that surfers aren't all foul-mouthed teenage stoners and proponents of public nudity. (Just the really good ones.)

For proof, you can peek at this piece my broker -- yes, my broker -- sent me. (Take that stereotypes!):

Talks about dentist/lawyer/vintner types who ride waves in Nor Cal. Some of them even -- eek! -- bodyboard. It's just these, uh, dudes we need to tap into to prove that surfers are an element worth keeping around.

As always, if you haven't already, please go to and take the survey to prove our value to the powers-that-be. And, to my stock broker: thanks for the tip. (Psst: I put everything in a diversified portfolio of Little Debbie snack cakes, Simpsons DVDs, Grateful Dead tie-dyes -- and surfboards. Lots and lots of surfboards)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

TRIPPIN’ OUT:A conversation with the voice of surfing – and other watersports – in the fight to maintain access on Cape Hatteras

Meet Trip Forman. As an owner of Real Watersports in Rodanthe, for the past two years, Trip’s spent hours upon hours making sure that surfers and other beach users can continue to enjoy Cape Hatteras in the face of questionable suit by Audubon and others to close the Seashore to ORV use – as well as pedestrians. The conversation shows just why the suit’s questionable, but one of my favorite things was when I explained the Surf-First concept and the need for hard, demographic and economic data to prove surfers impact and defend our rights in issues around the country. Not only did he say kiteboarding have that same problem, he said it took a magazine to finally get the numbers they needed. (Hmmm.) He also said the numbers came back showing that kiteboarders occupy a higher socio-economic status than they ever realized. (Hmmm, again.) And finally – this is my favorite part – he said, “Now I see those kiteboarding numbers spouted everywhere, a Fortune article, a Time article — everywhere. That research was so worth it.”

That all sounds so…so…eerily familiar.

Okay, enough masturbatory, narcissistic back-patting, let’s hear what Trip has to say about the what went down the past two years, and what we can do moving forward to keep surfing Hatteras. And – in my humble opinion – make sure they’re a plenty of selfish humans willing to protect it for a much larger fight to come, namely offshore oil. (And, yes, I called that one, too.)

So, I drove by the meeting place on Friday and there were no cars parked. What happened?
They terminated the meeting at the end of the first day, because neither side saw any consensus.

So it really was the failure people were saying it was?
I don’t think it was. As far as not reaching a unanimous consensus – yes, because they didn’t reach a unanimous consensus. As far as being a failure? No. Because a lot of valuable information came out over the course of the committee period in terms of how the beach was used from each of those user groups. Prior to this, the park was only superficially knowledgeable on how it was being used and now they have a much more specific idea.

Do you think surfers’ voices were heard loudly and clearly enough? Or were we sort of under-represented being one member out of 30?
Well, to be honest that’s why we got involved. At first it was 28 people with no representation for surfing or kiteboarding or paddleboarding or anything. There were people representing what happened on the beach, but nobody was representing what happened in the water. And we were involved in the whole process. Plus, everything was voted on a unanimous basis versus a majority basis, so we head the ability in every situation to say “I will not accept this proposal." A perfect example: at one point the pedestrian-only group was trying to lay claim to a popular ramp used by surfers, kiteboarders, windsurfers, families -- everyone. And we said, “We won‘t let that happen." And it didn’t.

My biggest fear is, in the end, watersports might get squeezed out because certain groups spoke more loudly over the public comment period. After all, there are more retired fishermen than surfers.
Well, that’s true. But we did have the notables who came in – Jim Vaughn, Bob Holland and Jesse Hines – which was way appreciated. And of course, Kelly and CJ chimed in. I also had a lot of people tell me their input as to what was important to them. And we chimed in on every single decision, whether it was the Lighthouse, or the Cove, or S-Turns or South Beach, we said, “This is where people surf.” So when it came to a location, we were there to provide expert information, in terms of where we needed access, times of year, etc. And that information will get weighed in when they make their final decisions. The one break that continues to be a problem, the biggest turf battle, is the Cove because of the bird closures in the summer. And there’s also a proposal for nighttime closures for sea turtles as well, which would effectively eliminate dawn patrols for people who have to work. Our personal thought on that is there could be a significant greater gain in turtle count if they were to work with communities to have a turtle-friendly lighting ordinance rather than nighttime closures; because it;s not ORV’s killing turtles on Cape Point. So there will be no net gain from nighttime closures, there will only be net loss by the fishermen who can‘t access it at night and the surfers who can’t access in the early morning.

Did they ever determine just how much ORV access is affecting the wildlife? It seems both sides always said the science was on their side, but I know the first meeting I went to, the bird scientists themselves said predation and natural causes were the leading causes of mortality.
I came to this with an open mind. I came to it wanting to represent water sports, but also wanting to hear the science to understand it better. And there really was no science put out there saying, “this is what’s happening on Cape Hatteras.” It was this is what’s happening on the entire East Coast, this is a policy for world recovery, this is Daytona, Florida — and we should apply that to Cape Hatteras. And not even necessarily “this is what’s working” but “this is what we’re doing.” And the number one thing killing everything on Cape Point is storm overwash and predation. Those two are responsible for between 90 and 98 % of the losses. So they’re focusing their whole recovery plan on 2% to 10% of the problem. And anyone who runs a business or some other project will tell you: when you have a problem, that 90% to 98% is where you focus your time and effort.

So why do they hold to the 'close the beach solution if it’s not a solution?
I don’t know. From a logical standpoint, nobody is looking at the meat of the problem and how to solve it. They’re looking at it with horse blinders on. There’s a couple things we’ve suggested that may or may not get through. Back to the turtle thing, there would be a far greater effect of leaving the point open at night and adding a light ordinance, that’s a net loss to everyone. There will be no more turtles, and nobody enjoying the cape at night. And closing cape point ,you may or may not get more pairs of chicks, but you’ll definitely see the economy drop between 20 and 50% of revenue depending on the business because the Point’s closed. We’re on the very southern edge of the plover recovery plan of which we’re a single digit percentage of that recovery plan. So a national park is being closed to citizens in defense of a micro-percentage of a species that – while it’s making a comeback in its other habits – is having no difference right here either way.

Are those economic numbers confirmed? I’ve heard some say there’s been no economic effect from the closed beaches…
They’re full of it. There’s tackle shops going out of business, there’s hotels having their worst years ever. And the restaurants, rental houses having their worst years in a long time. But that’s the other problem: they never did an economic study on Hatteras of any kind. The only economic input was from public comment, so they need to consider that as well. 100% of the businesses on Hatteras Island support ORV. And of the residents and rental property owners, I’d say 99% support ORV.

Did anyone publicly comment that they did want the beaches closed?
I think there was one person maybe who made that comment over two years.

So it really is outside organizations using federal law to flex their will in a local community without a whole lot of consideration or scientific support.
Again, there was no science from Cape Hatteras. And all the science was experts whose born cause was to bring this bird back, not anyone who was independently studying what was happening here. Whether it was a local or national recovery plan, the storms themselves rule out those results on Cape Hatteras. Another good example is they’re closing off major sections of the beach for the American Oystercatcher, yet there’s hundreds of American Oystercatchers on the dredge islands in the sound. But they will not count those because they’re not legally within the boundaries of the park. You’re literally standing on the national park looking at a dredge island full of oyster catchers and they’ll close the beach if one lands on cape point.

And this isn’t just beach driving either; it’s pedestrians, too, correct?
There’s talk of the walking buffers not being as drastic as the vehicle buffers. But this is another case of the science not making sense. Because every so-called scientist – and again, they aren’t talking about Cape Hatteras – but, again, every single one said that people walking by are a bigger disturbance than cars. So they say that, and they testify to that, but they create a plan that lets you walk closer than the cars.

Did they go so far as to create a plan that says you can take your 4Runner on the beach but not an Expedition?
Oh, because of the Toyota thing? [Audubon accepted a $20 million donation from Toyota.] No, but I don’t think Toyota knew what they were getting involved in when they threw $20 million at Audubon; because I must know 50 people firsthand now who won't buy a Toyota truck.

That’s what ‘s killing me. We’re headed toward a huge offshore oil battle in NC and these guys managed to piss off the most dedicated, loyal beach users of all time — some of the most potentially valuable allies – over an issue that may seem important, but won’t mean the beginning or end of any species. Yet, one oil spill could damage the ecosystem and economy to degrees we’ve never seen. We may never get them on our side. It just seems so short-sighted. So what’s the rest of the process?
Well, a government fact-finding process called NEPA has been happening this whole time in case NegReg failed. That’s how they normally come to these decisions anyway. So they’ll take the information from the NegReg process into account and the park will have to come to some long-term plan based on all the information they get. And they’ve asked for my input by March 26.

So how do we get our voices heard – without having people write in threatening to chop the balls off of every piping plover?
Well, that’s what I’m worried about. Because that’s what we don’t want. We want the birds to flourish. We want the turtles to flourish. But the problem with this process is nothing’s flourishing -- the wildlife isn’t, the user groups sure aren’t, and neither are the businesses. What we want is for the park to look toward this situation with a ‘net gain’ approach: find a way where the wildlife gains, the users gain, and the businesses gain. There’s a way to do that. But right now it’s all net loss.

If people send me a name, address, phone number and email, I’ll collect them and put them at the bottom of my summation, asking them to keep Cape Hatteras open for the prolonged environmental protection and economic survival. Our goal through the whole process is the new plan needs to represent a net gain for the people who walk on the beach, drive on the beach, the birds and the turtles that want to flourish on the beach. It shouldn’t be all one way or the other. We need to look at it with an open mind and the final plan needs to represent a plan a plan where everyone wins. Because it can be that way.

YOU HEARD THE MAN! Email him at:
Kelly spoke up. So did CJ and Dam-O. And now it’s your turn.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


First Trestles, now this? Surfers are on a run -- barring this whole Cape Hatteras debacle, and parking at S-Turns, and no surfing on Montauk and LBI changing laws...oh shit, maybe we're not on a run. Nonetheless, props to Surfrider, Tom Warnke, Terry Gibson and the rest of the New Localism mofos who took down Palm Beach's efforts to ruin Lake Worth Pier and other spots with a BS dredge-and-fill program. I'll check in soon with some insights from Terry G. In the meantime, you can read the full press release here:

One final thought: this fight took three years and a lot of firsthand personal effort. But they won. Food for thought -- fuel for future fights.